Sunday, December 30, 2007

Movie Review: Charlie Wilson's War

Charlie Wilson's War - PosterMovie Title: Charlie Wilson's War
Starring:
Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and Om Puri.
Directed by: Mike Nichols
Genre: Drama/Biography
My Rating: 8.5/10

Based on a novel, based on a true story, edited for movie content, and viola - you have this movie called Charlie Wilson's War. However, this movie was released at a time where most people care less about how Afghan people got anti-aircraft missiles and rocket launchers to kick the Soviets out of their country. All people care about these days is kicking ass and having less sympathy for Afghan and Arab people due to the unfortunate disasters occurred in the last 6+ years. However, I will keep my political commentary off this blog.

Hanks excels as Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson, a morally gray and womanizing politician with a soft spot for Afghans suffering at the hands of invading Soviets in the early 1980's. Julia Roberts, in a wonderful and exceptional return, plays a former playmate centerfold who now runs a feminist group while living a millionaire lifestyle in Houston, TX. Along with a CIA outcast in Hoffman, they find backdoor methods of assisting poor Afghans fight back the Soviet Russians. In Hollywood, there's one simple rule: if a current or former country was a baddie once, they'll always be a baddie on-screen. A touching masterpiece based on facts set in the past and shows some light side of politicians is very likely to be an Oscar contender, and that's exactly where I see this piece heading. It already has Golden Globe nominations!

Due to the political sensitivity of the movie's subject, I'll jump to the praises in production and acting. This has to be Mike Nichols' best work till date, even though Closer wasn't a bad movie, it was carried mostly by the excellent actors. In Wilson's War, too, the movie was carried superbly by the lead and supporting actors. Besides the Oscar-worthy Hanks, Roberts and always promising Hoffman, Amy Adams acted very well as Hank's administrative secretary, the most dignified and least skimpy out of the rest of his young-woman-dominated workforce. The only surprise cameo was by British actress Emily Blunt who plays a lobbying sexual decoy, an odd role after she overshadowed the lead in The Devil Wears Prada. Indian actor Om Puri too excelled as the then Pakistani dictator-president Zia Ul Haq who took over presidency after staging a coup d'etat, which is common in that unfortunate nation. Puri surely deserves more recognition in Hollywood. He is already a successful actor in the UK and one of the most respected in his native India.

8.5/10. Countdown to the Oscars. Not for the narrow minded type. Keep an open mind about politics and history, you may just enjoy this masterpiece.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Movie Review: No Country For Old Men


Movie Title: No Country For Old Men
Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Kelly MacDonald and Woody Harrelson
Directed by: Ethan Coen/Joel Coen
Genre: Drama/Thriller/Western
My Rating: 8.7/10.

I had heard a lot of rave reviews and hype about this movie before going to watch it, thus kept my expectations low. For most of the movie I could see why...

Set in the lonely countryside of southeast Texas circa 1980, welder Moss (Brolin) finds $2 million in a satchel and more than a handful of murdered drug-peddling Mexicans, during a hunt. Tired of his trailer park lifestyle and with hope to provide a good future to his wife (MacDonald) and himself, Moss decides to take away the money and run. Little did he expect an uber psychotic killer to be chasing him all over.

Enter Anton Chigurh (Bardem) at the start of the movie. A merciless killer with unorthodox weapons: cattle-gun to open up locked doors, auto-like muffler on a shotgun to reduce noise. To add to that, a very polite speaking demeanor and absurd set of principles. Chigurh is on the hunt for the money, killing anyone coming in the way, even cops.

Contrary to what one would expect in the Texas dessert, the ranger cops are shown to be horse-riding but not so gun-slinging. Tommy Lee Jones plays a retiring and aging sheriff who dreads killing, complicated FBI/DEA style investigations and has the greatest heart of all characters in the movie. Sheriff Bell's primary interests lie in the well being of his townsfolk, no matter how badly they screwed up. This philosophy, however, takes a toll on his aging self and thus the story has such a title.

The movie is a good quasi-western with great photography/cinematography of rural Texas. The acting and direction is very praiseworthy. Jones excelled one more time as a Texas ranger with brains and a heart. Spanish actor Bardem impresses for the first time on American mainstream. Brolin shows for the first time some acting skills while not playing baddie. Scottish actress Kelly MacDonald also did a decent job, while Woody Harrelson's cameo as a humerous bounty hunter who has encountered Chigurh before.


8.7/19. Great cinematography, brilliant acting and a good novel to adapt the screenplay from. Just a weird ending, which I won't spoil for you. Not weird, just un-cliched. Not everyone may appreciate this movie. I know I did, though.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

IM Integration: AiM on GMAIL chat now!

Google has invested about a billion bucks in AOL (yes, it still exists) and now has enhanced the already cool feature of chatting on GTALK via GMAIL. For those who don't know, you can chat with other GTALK contacts who are in your address book while checking your GMAIL on the same web page.

The latest innovation is integrating AOL Instant Messenger with GMAIL chat (GTALK). The simple requirements are:

  • Internet Explorer 7+ or Mozilla Firefox 2+ as your browser

  • Your GMAIL View set to Standard. Check the bottom of your GMAIL to ensure this.

  • With the above setting, you should have your chat contact list displayed to the left-center of your GMAIL window.

  • Below your name under Chat you'll find a dropdown box that'll allow you to change your status. In the same dropdown, you now have the option: Sign Into AIM.

  • Obviously, you'll need an AIM account to log into that :-)

With residential high-speed Internet having crushed AOL in the ISP market, it's Instant Messaging service is probably the only viable product under the AOL umbrella. AIM has a huge proportion in the market of Internet chatters (especially teens, just like facebook and myspace), Google probably thought this was a good idea in order to counter Microsoft and Yahoo!'s collaboration earlier this year. For those who do not know, you can also chat with Yahoo! users from Windows Live (formerly MSN) Messenger and likewise. However, when it comes to download-free, web-based, non-JAVA (but JavaScript) chatting, Google wins. A lot of my friends can only chat via GMAIL/GTALK while they're at work. A lot of employers disallow downloads of AIM/Yahoo Messengers and block JAVA to disable their web-based IM clients as well.

Way to go, big G. However, I think I'm going to continue using meebo at work and at home.

Click here for more info on AIM in GMAIL.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Coming Soon: Windows XP Service Pack 3!

That's right. Microsoft has actually decided to release the third Service Pack for Windows XP. It is currently in testing phase and should release soon, in a matter of months.

This will obviously delay the majority of XP users' migration to Vista, but might be a good thing. Even XP had its faults until Service Pack 2. Vista is working on SP 1, and could improve drastically by the second release. I wouldn't be harsh enough to compare Vista to ME (Millenium Edition - a flopped Windows Operating System), I always hold hope for the second service pack of any OS. Just like XP, even Windows 98's Second Edition proved to be Microsoft's best release at that time.

Link: IT Wire: XP SP3

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Movie Review: Beowulf

Beowulf PosterMovie Title: Beowulf
Starring: Ray Winstone, Brendan Gleeson, Angelina Jolie, Robin Wright-Penn, John Malkovich and Anthony Hopkins.
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Genre: Action/Adventure/Fantasy/Drama
My Rating: 7.5/10

Honestly, I had low expectations before going to see this movie. The only reason I went, was that it was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I was going to stay in town, and some friends were going. Overall, it wasn't a bad experience.

However, this movie could have just been brilliant with the right screenplay and flow. Great actors, undeniably great special effects and a well-known legendary fairy tale to adapt. I even remember reading "Beowulf and Grendel" as a chapter in World Literature during my undergraduate studies.

The story starts in 7th Century,A.D., when Christianity was still in the process of spreading to Scandinavia. Ray Winstone (Mr. French from The Departed, Sexy Beast) plays the title character, a fearless Saxon warrior/freelancer who travels to Denmark in pursuit of killing a monster for a reward. The monster, Grendel, harasses the town folk of the local kingdom every time there is any merry-making. Grendel is horrific with an incomplete body structure yet huge and strong, and enjoys breaking people into halves. Anthony Hopkins plays the local drunk-king Hrothgar, speaking with his natural Welsh accent and portraying his role exceptionally well. Robin Wright-Penn acts as his younger, dignified and unhappy queen whom Beowulf has an eye for.

The real villain in this story is not Grendel, but his mother - the sea-serpent, played by Angelia Jolie, a gold-coated seductress with unbeatable magical powers and a long hair-tail. Jolie's really learning to play a bad mother very well, remember Alexander? John Malkovich was wasted as the king's chancellor-equivalent.

Another good performance in this film which could probably go under-appreciated is of Brendan Gleeson's. He plays Beowulf's second in command, a red-bearded bulky believer in his leader - very similar to his role in Braveheart, actually.

Contrary to what one may conclude based on the posters and trailer, this movie is not exactly an animation. Well, it is animation in parts. Real actors acted in front of a blue-screen in a studio, more than just lend their voices. Similar to the movie 300, with much of CGI. They were just all digitally "enhanced." 50 year old and bulky Ray Winstone was made to look at least 20 years younger and way fitter. Hopkins was given 50 pounds more. Robin Wright-Penn looked younger than in her current 40's. Jolie was just given just the golden touch and the hair-tail.

Even with the uber praiseworthy graphics/CGI/animation/SFX in general, this movie lacked a brilliant enough screenplay! If you like fantasy movies with monsters, brave slayers, dragons and curses that are supposed to have a moral ending hidden somewhere if you're too bored to figure it out, check out this movie on DVD. Watch it in the theater only if you're an SFX freak. I'm shocked this movie got a PG-13 rating rather than an "R".

7.5/10. Entertaining, keeps you awake throughout. Quite a winter movie.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Movie Review: American Gangster

Movie Title: American Gangster
Starring: Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Ted Levine, Carla Gugino, Josh Brolin, Cuba Gooding Jr., Armand Assante.
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Genre: Drama/Thriller
My Rating: 9/10

Based on a true story, Gangster stars Washington as a New York drug kingpin Frank Lucas. In the 1970's Lucas took advantage of the Vietnam War in progress by having drugs smuggled from southeast Asia to the US via military carriers. The protagonist started off as a driver to one of NY's top mob bosses, and built his own empire steadily after his boss died of a heart attack. Sporting a well-dressed, businessman-like demeanor, Lucas would kill in cold blood anyone who came in his way or his family's. Yet Lucas was a good family man and supported his entire extended kin from North Carolina.

Crowe, on the other hand, plays a no-nonsense New Jersey cop always equipped with a handyman's tools when investigating. A wrench one time, an ax another. Richie Roberts is "untouchable" - can not be bought over or bribed. Yet, he's no angel; putting his marriage, son and even ongoing divorce at the bottom of his priorities. Roberts is made head of an investigative team probing into the increasing drug traffic caused by Lucas' superior quality + half priced product called "Blue Magic."

Both these lead actors carried their roles and the movie as a whole just as brilliantly as they could. Their parallel stories were shared very well, even though they don't come face each other until the last 45 minutes of this long-yet-fast-paced movie. The supporting cast did their job decently as well. Carla Gugino looked good as Roberts' to-be ex-wife, Ted Levine fit his cameo as Crowe's boss, and Cuba Gooding Jr. looked old as Lucas' contemporary. The rappers did a decent job, it was just funny to see T.I. as Common's son in the movie. RZA played an undercover operative from Roberts' team. Armand Assante showed experience playing a mafia boss who befriends Lucas, and Josh Brolin played another crooked role of a corrupt NY cop who nobody really lied on either side of the law.

The direction was done with expertise, the pace makes you forget how time flew by, and the movie overall makes for a great Fall movie and one of the best released this year. I definitely see a few Oscar nods coming this way. Great job again, Ridley Scott. Bravo, Washington and Crowe!

9/10. Definitely a theater watch, definitely a keeper.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A good movie to skip

30 Days of Night, unless you're an avid horror fanatic. Josh Hartnett and Melissa George seriously need to replace their agents.

6/10. Saving energy here.

Movie Review: We Own The Night

Movie Title: We Own the Night
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Wahlberg, Eva Mendes and Robert Duvall.
Directed by: James Grey
Genre: Drama/Thriller
My Rating: 7/10

Look at the cast, look at the setting, look at the trailer. You'll think it's going to be a masterpiece in the making. A family of cops that gets on the Russian mob's hit list in late 1980's New York - how would that sound to you? The movie had potential, even the setting was well done. What did it lack? Read below..

Respected veteran actor Robert Duvall plays a veteran cop, with one son (Wahlberg) also a cop, and the other (Phoenix) - a manager of a nightclub owned by a Russian "organized crime" family. Phoenix's character decides to give his wild ways a break to help his father and brother upon finding out they're in the mob's kill list.Eva Mendes plays his Puerto Rican girlfriend, more of an eye candy and less substance of a character. The rest of the cast is relatively unknown, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

The bad thing is amateur direction and editing. I can bet all the quarters in my couch that if the movie is re-edited for DVD release it could turn out better. The story wasn't all that bad - it just wasn't given justice. Not with the direction, nor the editing. Despite it's shortcomings, I see this movie playing on the AMC channel on cable television in a couple of years, that's where I'd suggest you check it out.

7/10. Good acting, decent story, well set in the late 80's with Blondie music, but ugh - somebody do something about the pace.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Concert Review: Velvet Revolver/Alice in Chains

AIC/VRThis was one hell of an amazing night of rock n' freaking roll! I never imagined while growing up as a teen in the 90's that I'd get to see Scott Weiland, Slash and Alice in Chains all play in one night. But they did, at the Snowden Grove Amphitheater on October 9th, 2007, and it will be a night to remember for a long time to come.
Artist: Alice in Chains
Genre: Grunge/Rock/Alternative
From: Seattle, WA (Home of Grunge)

People can be apprehensive, cynical and wary when a once famous band gets a new singer after their original kicked the bucket or just left the band, while hoping to restore lost glory. AC/DC and Black Sabbath did that successfully, Van Halen did it twice,so did INXS, Drowning Pool with lesser success. Decased Alice in Chains vocalist Layne Staley had a powerful voice, screaming without shrieking and modulating as necessary. After his OD less than a decade ago and guitarist finding mediocre success with a solo career, the band members got together and recruited "Comes with the Fall" frontman William DuVall to sing for them.

DuVall makes an excellent addition to the band, whilst not a replacement to Staley. However, he does sound similar to his predecessor, only as close as another guy can get. Classics such as "Would?" and "Man in the Box" were sung and played faultlessly and were a great joy to listen to live for the first time! VR's/former Guns N' Roses lead guitarist Slash was invited to play along for AiC's final act "Rooster" - and the air was all about the 90's at that point.

Besides DuVall's voice, he also plays guitar, which in my opinion is a plus - a band with two guitarists always sound complete to me. Wouldn't need extra rhythm for every song, especially none of the classics AiC recorded as is. But moving forward if they actually plan to record a new album, DuVall's backup strumming would come handy. Yes, AiC didn't play any new song that night. Not sure if they even have any yet. But it was good to see them play classics, nonetheless. I finally saw an actual grunge band in concert!

Even though Velvet Revolver was the main performer of the night and the tour, a lot of attendees had AiC shirts on and a good majority of them looked like they teleported from the early 90's.




Artist: Velvet Revolver
Genre: Hard Rock/Post-Grunge
From: Hollywood, CA

After AiC concluded their setlist, the arena was all dark while the stage was being setup, and interestingly the song playing in the background to introduce the band was "Straight Outta Crompton" by NWA. Who would imagine using a rap classic to introduce a rock band? The announcer then introduced VR as a band from Hollywood that put the "Punked" back in "Punctuality" - poking a fun at GnR's vocalist Axl Rose who has always been beyond notorious for being tardy at concerts. The next thing you hear is a lead guitar solo, and a silhouette of Slash standing behind a curtain for a minute before the curtains fall, and the lights go full bright with all the band members performing "Let it Roll" - the first song from their latest and sophomore CD Libertad.

Following the first track, singer Scott Weiland (formerly of Stone Temple Pilots) introduced his band in his usually notorious words "We're Velvet Revolver, and we play m-f'n rock n' roll!" Which is true, they're the only band that play any old school rock n' roll these days. They continued with new songs including "Get Out the Door," "She Mine" and songs from their first album Contrabrand :"Superhuman" and "Big Machine." All of a sudden they sat down on coffee shop stools and started playing semi-acoustic ballads - somewhat bizarre but a pleasant surprise nonetheless. Ballads included their latest single "Last Fight" and GnR/STP covers "Patience" and "Interstate Love Song." I might be/have been in a daze, but Scott seemed do have a better job than the original singer Axl Rose at singing "Patience." These softie songs did mellow down the air quite a bit even though they were a delight to listen to, and the band rose to the occasion and went all electric again.

The spotlight fell on Slash alone, who played a guitar solo of the Led Zeppelin classic Heartbreaker brilliantly for a few minutes before resuming jamming with the band. A buddy of mine happens to be an Led Zeppelin fan, and was all praise for Slash's mastery at strumming like Jimmy Paige.







Scott Weiland
Slash - My Idol!
Photos courtesy of http://vr.rated-art.com/
VR continued with their originals "Set Me Free," "Do it for the Kids," their best ballad "Fall to Pieces" - which saw a lot of lighters go up in the front rows, and new releases "Just Sixteen," "She Builds Quick Machines" - which I like best from their new album. They continued with GnR covers of "It's so Easy" and "Mr. Brownstone" along with STP's "Sex Type Thing" which excited the crowd of nearly 6,000 to no end. Scott Weiland's continues serpentine dancing and leaping, climbing over speakers and anything he can get his limbs on, along with Slash semi-dominating the stage with his guitars and top-hat presence were the visual highlights of the show, along with the splendid and constantly varying lights. VR has really grown as a band, and improvised exceptionally as far as stage presence and value added-glamor such as the light-show.

The evening ended with VR's greatest hit ever/so far - "Slither", an elongated version with an obviously longer guitar solo and follow up vocals. The only downsize, and a minor one, may have been bassist Duff's soar voice lagging behind in backing vocals.

Overall, this was the greatest arena concert that I have attended till date, and VR continues to be my current favorite band. Too bad they didn't play "American Man" from their latest CD, but they did well enough too fill their nearly 2 hours of un-dragged performance. Having Alice in Chains tour with them and the pranks exchanged between these two bands showed spirit and support for fellow rock n' rollers of the 90's.

Keep on Rocking!

Links:

Friday, October 12, 2007

Movie Review: The Kingdom

Movie Title: The Kingdom
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper, Jason Bateman, Ashraf Barhom and Jeremy Piven
Directed by: Peter Berg
Genre: Action/Drama/Thriller
My Rating: 8/10

Summertime is over and early Fall movies are here. This doesn't mean the worst movies are released, but definitely not the heavily crowd-gathering kind. The goal for movies released in this period are to make money at the box office mostly due to less competition. Kingdom isn't exactly a masterpiece or a classic-to-be, but far away from disaster, moreover. The occasional bouts of action and suspense kept one awake well during the flow dominated by thought processes for basically nothing.

Irregularly, I started appreciating this film right from the opening credits! Yes, they have the so-and-so presents, a so-and-so film, editor: so-and-so, but in between the credits they showed the proven and factual parts of the history of Saudi Arabia ever since monarchy came into power in the early 20th century, followed by the discovery of oil, and the Arab-American joint venture for oil digging (ARAMCO). That followed the unbiased summaries of how the US-Saudi relations got stronger through the years and minor political snippets similar to what you may have seen in Fahrenheit 9/11 without the bashing.

The actual movie starts with a social softball game on an American compound in Saudi (probably oil workers/engineers) and a bomb blows up killing many. An American team of 4 FBI-ers is sent to investigate the same in the ultra-hot, ultra-conservative Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The team comprises of an investigator (Foxx), a bomb-expert (Cooper), a forensic specialist (Garner) and an intel gatherer (Bateman). Good casting. Jamie Foxx now commands a strong screen presence ever since his Oscar win, and did great justice to his role. Garner wasn't exactly the ALIAS girl we know well, but a humble and less-talky geek girl who can kick ass if the occasion arises. Cooper was under-used, but filled his shoes just fine without an extra sole, and Bateman did what he does best. Joke around. He didn't exactly transition to a serious role in this very serious movie, but provided the momentary comic relief which wasn't mistimed at all. Witty sarcasm can always be a good addition to a thriller of a movie.

Middle Eastern actor Ashraf Barhoum impressed as the local cop (titled a Colonel though) who was assigned to escort this team. Jeremy Piven plays a suck up the Prince who's a partner of the oil digging firm. Seriously, after playing Ari Gold on TV's Entourage and winning so many awards for the same, and landing a leading role in Smoking Aces - Piven could have thought better than being miscast for this role. Come on, he can put the a back in a-hole.

Conspiracy theorists won't be adding anything to their bank of theories by watching this movie. Haters will less likely to hate more too. An average and sensible movie appreciating guy could just enjoy this movie like any other action thriller. I have thorough respect for a screenplay where facts are not bent for bias.

8/10 - won't make a bad rental or Netflix queue member. You will need at least half a good stomach to watch this, when compared to a real war flick like Black Hawk Down.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Sweeney Todd: Only Johnny Depp

Upcoming is a dark movie, set over a 100-150 years ago, costumes, blood, faces looking silver gray, even Tim Burton as a director. The only ingredient left to marinate this thriller with is by casting Johnny Depp in the leading role. But of course, nobody else can play such a dark role in a costume drama thriller. Depp's other similar characterizations were in:

  • From Hell
  • Sleepy Hollow
  • Dead Man

    Plus, these set in the present day:
  • The Ninth Gate
  • The Astronaut's Wife, and
  • Secret Window.


Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is about a creepy barber (Depp) with homicidal tendencies who chops off his customers and does the weirdest things with the body parts. Grossed out? Well, I would assume anyone who's seen 2 out of the 6 movies mentioned above would be able to handle this one as well. To add to the director and actor combo, Burton's wife Heleno Bonham Carter joins the cast, along with Alan Rickman (Snape from the HP series), and Sacha Baron Cohen (BORAT!). Mind you, this is not a comedy. A bit of an absurd musical maybe, but definitely not a SBCohen-isque comedy at all.

Check out the trailer and poster. I can't wait till this comes out!

Trailer

Friday, September 28, 2007

Movie Review: 3:10 to Yuma

Movie Title: 3:10 To Yuma
Starring: Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Ben Foster, Peter Fonda and Gretchen Mol.
Directed by: James Mangold
Genre: Western/Action/Adventure
My Rating: 9/10

Yee-haww! What happens when you take an Australian/New Zealand Oscar Winner and a Welsh born substance actor and put them both in a remade Western movie set in the post-cold-war southwest? Well, 3:10 is a great example that this mixture of imported heroes does work well for almost any genre now. Add the director of Walk the Line and you've got yourself a strong entertainer!

Bale plays with expertise and dignity a family man + financially struggling rancher + former Union soldier who volunteers to escort an outlaw to the nearest train station to be sentenced as a federal prisoner in a bigger city. This outlaw is brilliantly portrayed by none other than Crowe. Take his bad-ass and no-BS attitude from L.A. Confidential, gallantry from Gladiator and improve his gun slinging from Quick and the Dead, you have the character Ben Wade in 3:10. Both these actors displayed near perfection as men on opposite sides of the law, yet managing to earn respect for each other half way through the movie (and not keep it cliched for the end, thank God, we don't need another buddy-cop-cowboy flick).

Peter Fonda plays a bounty hunter leading the pack to escort Wade to the train station, and shows his veteran status well even though he was almost forgotten before he reappeared on the silver screen in Ghost Rider. Gretchen Mol plays Bale's gracious wife, mothering two sons. The elder son is some 14 year old loose canon who can't wait to get his hand on the trigger every time. At the same time he wasn't shown as a spoilt teenager of the 20th-21st century, interestingly.

Robert Foster wins the award for creepiest character of the movie, as Wade's super-attached yet heartless sidekick. I understand he's trying to grow out of the high school boy image, but whoa - this is quite an extreme. Not the first, I'm sure.

The scenery's and set up were all done excellently. The screen color and free language is one of the few things that remind us that it's not just another classic western we're watching. Even though this movie is a remake of a 1957 movie with the same title and starring Glen Ford, many reviewers have praised the 2007 version to be an improvement over the original. I personally haven't missed too many classic westerns, but the '57 version of Yuma just happens to be one of them I need to add to my netflix queue for comparison. Comparing The Departed to it's HK-Chinese original Infernal Affairs was a lot fun alright.

Back to Yuma '07, it's an enjoyable flick whether you like westerns or not. The acting, set-up, direction are all great additions to the simple story. 9/10 - probably the last movie of the summer/fall to get such a rating from me :-)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Movie Review: Superbad

Movie Title: Superbad
Starring: Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Bill Hader, Martha McIsaac, Emma Stone and Seth Rogen
Directed by: Greg Motolla
Genre: Comedy
My Rating: 9/10

Attaboy! This is how you make a hilarious movie with a bunch of talented yet relatively unknown young actors. I usually avoid listing unknown actors, but they all deserved the credit here. Seth Rogen has scored once again as a writer and supporting actor.

Arrested Development's Michael Sera and Accepted's John Hill play a pair of high school misfits who want to party it out 2 weeks before graduating. Sera plays the brain and Hill plays the obnoxious, and their weakness is that they're heterosexually inseparable. In trying to get the girls of their dreams, acquiring alcohol with the help of a greater nerd in the form of McLovin (Passe) who has a fake-id, running into fun and unrealistic loving cops (Knocked Up's Rogen and SNL's Hader) and crashing at a grown up party to steal booze before landing up at a high school party to which they got invited to for the first time ever - summarizes their unlimited adventure.

The girls, for a change, looked like high school girls, and not like 25-30 year olds who must have failed too many times to still be prom-dreaming. The cops were the funniest part of the movie, with their Star Wars references and power abuse. More detail could lead to spoilers. I'd suggest you watch this movie unless you're a lightweight and have absolutely no sense of humor. Superbad surpasses all high school comedies ever, ever made. Forget Fast Times, forget American Pie. It could compare to The New Guy only because the music in the soundtrack was very retro - funk and classic rock.

9/10. Enjoy! Not a family movie, but fun for all at the same time.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Movie Review: The Bourne Ultimatum

Movie Title: The Bourne Ultimatum
Starring: Matt Damon, Joan Allen, David Staithairn, Julia Stiles, Edgar Ramirez and Scott Glenn.
Directed by: Paul Greengrass
Genre:Action/Thriller/Mystery/Adventure
My Rating: 9/10

This just might be the first time in film history that a threequel (part 3 of a franchise) is the best one of the trilogy! Ultimatum's predecessors The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy were brilliant action movies as well, but part-3's depth and execution ruled them all. By this third movie we've come to accept the movie will be different from the book (again) - to suit current political conditions and aftermaths, as well as technological advances. The first movie disappointed many fans of the book due to the story change, despite the kick ass action. The second movie had better locales (Goa in India to start with, thank you) and a smoother progression. Yet Ultimatum has to be the best entertainer of the summer this year, and I'm glad for the same.

While attempting to minimize spoilers in this post and others to come, I'll still say that the movie starts not after where the last one ended, but 10 mins before the ending of Supremacy. Jason Bourne (Damon), the ex-CIA hitman who's conscience had him fail a mission and woke up with amnesia after floating in the Mediterranean sea for a little while, starts to remember his training days and induction into the "Treadstone" program of the Agency. Information of Bourne's background gets "leaked" to a British journalist and lands up on the papers in the UK, which awakens Bourne from his exile once again, as well as the CIA guys working on Treadstone's upgrade, called "Blackbriar." The cat and mouse game between the agents, headed by Vosen (Straithairn, another great performance) and Bourne. BUT - it continues to be confusing who the cat is and who the mouse is. If Bourne is the mouse, he's the Jerry to Tom. After a failed attempt to capture Bourne, Pamela Landy (Allen, who made Supremacy better than Identity) is called upon to advise them on Bourne's moves and signals.

The chase continues to Spain and Morocco, with great cinematography and car chase scenes. Bourne runs into his old colleague at Treadstone, Nicky (Stiles, wooden as ever) and she surprisingly ends up helping him.

The two hit-men sent to get Bourne were nothing short of bad-ass. Venezuelan actor Edgar Ramirez (from Domino) was way colder than Clive Owen in the first movie, and Joey Ansah played the Moroccan operative like the hero of a B-grade martial arts movie. Veteran actor Scott Glenn played the CIA director, and fared decently in his short role, so did Albert Finney as Bourne's old trainer.

Matt Damon just established himself an ideal action movie star. I did miss Franka Potente and Julia Stiles was the only actor that didn't impress me much. However, I say thank God for Joan Allen being in this movie. If Damon was the protagonist, she was the backbone of the entire movie, best support an action movie can get.

Okay, I better cut this short before any more potential spoilers. Go watch it if you haven't yet. I'm going to buy the DVD, for sure. Maybe all 3 now. Hmm..

9.25/10 - my Nestle frozen chocolate drink went very well with that! :-)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Comedy Reviews: Chuck/Larry and Simpsons Movie

Movie Title: I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry
Starring: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Jessica Biel, Dan Akyroyd, Steve Buscemi and Ving Rhames.
Directed by: Dennis Dugan
Genre: Comedy
My Rating: 7.5/10

James and Sandler play two straight firefighters in NYC who decide to fake a marriage to benefit widower James' children as far as insurance etc goes. The marriage is real, the gayness is not. Don't ask. They're advised to do so by their lawyer, played but eye candy Jessica Biel. As Adam Sandler gets older, the heroines in his movies keep getting younger. Not a bad deal. Happens in other parts of the world, doesn't it?

The supporting cast is praiseworthy. Dan Akyroyd as their fire chief, Ving Rhames in a very unusual role, Steve Buscemi creepy as ever, and Sandler's entourage that appears in every movie of his all did a decent job. Only actor missing was Rob Schneider, but not terribly missed.

7.5/10. Funny movie, not for the terribly homophobic. It'll satisfy hard-core Adam Sandler fans, and moderately amuse King of Queens fans. Sandler is back to his old ways, less of a super goody goody smart ass and more of an apathetic clown. Chuck/Larry will make a good rental with some buddies on a Saturday evening when you don't feel like going out.

Movie Title: The Simpsons Movie
Directed by: David Silverman
Genre: Animation/Comedy/Family
My Rating: 8/10

Quick review. Great movie, amusing, watchable by all ages. I stopped watching Simspons almost a decade ago and still enjoyed this flick. It was much better than 2 hours of Simpsons episodes at a strectch. Also a group movie.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Movie Review: Live Free Or Die Hard

Live Free or Die HardMovie Title: Live Free or Die Hard
Starring: Bruce Willis, Justin Long, Maggie Q, Timothy Olyphant, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Cliff Curtis.
Directed by: Len Wiseman
Genre: Action/Thriller
My Rating: 8.5/10

Bravo! Who would have expected a part-4 (or a fourquel) would be this good? I mean, it wasn't as amazing as Die Hard 1 or 3, but better than 2 and good enough for a summer action entertainer.

Willis reprises his role as bad-ass NYPD cop John McLane, divorced and estranged from his kids. But still a cop, and not seen with the bottle this time around. For better or worse, none of the characters from the previous DH movies return, and Willis stands tall and alone around characters much younger to him. Assuming the last minute 2 AM job of escorting a hacker (Long - the "mac" guy) from NYC to DC as a favor to the feds is a one-off thing, turns out to be another save-the-day task for the aging and balded cop. Former Secret Service whiz Thomas Gabriel (Deadwood's Olyphant) decides to teach the US government a lesson by exposing all the open holes in the federal computer system and creating a fire sale as a whole.

The action is great! A good change from the sci-fi overdose these days, old school unrealistic stunts worked well in this movie. What I missed is the lack of swearing. Yes, this movie is rated PG-13, WTF? I understand it's releasing in the summer and would be nice to attract more teenage crowd, but still. A Die Hard movie is incomplete without the overdose of foul verbage. John McLane hasn't gone all that senile, has he? Hope the DVD is uncut. Oh, spoilers aside, he does say what he say at the end of every DH movie before killing the villain. Thank God for that least.

Willis excels in the role he knows best. The character and the actor both have aged well in this movie. Justin Long deserves praise as well, being the spokesperson for Apple's Macintosh computers on TV commercials establishes his image as a computer guy well. Timothy Olyphant, well this is not the first time he simply plays a baddie, and does ok. Maggie Q did a decent job as a kung-fu assistant of the villain. Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Willis' daughter who gets kidnapped when the veteran cop gets too hard to handle.

8.5/10. Best actioneer of the summer so far. Enjoy this dude flick.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Velvet Revolver: Live performance on myspace.com

Velvet Revolver will be playing live on myspace.com on Tuesday, July 31st 2007 at 6PM Pacific Time/8PM Central/9PM Eastern.

Requests will be taken via myspace IM's, which I may just skip. But won't miss this show for the world!

If you can't watch this, but are still interested in seeing what VR is like when live, check this out:
    Velvet Revolver live at MSN Music in Concert

Update: 7/31/2007 10:30 PM, The e-concert was awesome! A very interesting novelty indeed. Looking forward to seeing VR in October.


Here's their bassist Duff McKagan promoting the e-concert.


I'm going to hopefully see these guys live in October, with Alice in Chains.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Movie Trailer: The Darjeeling Limited

I may not have mentioned this before on blog; I happen to be a fan of Wes Anderson movies. His next film, The Darjeeling Limited is about three estranged American brothers (Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman) travelling through northern and eastern India by train. Looks like an interesting and mellow comedy like other Anderson flicks.

Check out the trailer:





Trailer on Apple.com

Friday, July 20, 2007

If I were a Simpson's character

I'm not the biggest Simspsons' fan, but I found this to be hilarious!

Go to http://www.simpsonsmovie.com/avatar and make your own avatar. If I were a Simpson's character, I would be Apu's nemesis from back home, named Babu and this is what I'd look like:


Click Here to View Image!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Movie Review: Transformers

Movie Title: Transformers
Starring: Shia LeBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, John Turturro and Jon Voigt
Directed by: Michael Bay
Genre: Action/Sci-Fi/Comic-based
My Rating: 7/10

Great special effects, clichéd storyline, strong supporting cast and 144 minutes in length would best summarize this movie. The love story starts when a high school geek (LeBeouf) tries to impress his class-mate hottie (Fox) and buys a car within his miserly daddy's budget, the car starts playing herbie for the first half of the movie at least. The action starts when a U.S. Military base in Qatar (which is in the Middle East for those who don't know, a U.S. friendly nation near Saudi Arabia) is attacked by a huge machine with a brain of its own and acquires intel from the servers there. Valiant survivors of this attack (Duhamel, Gibson) decide to take the probe of this attack into their own hands when they return home.

These brained-machines are a species from another galaxy's planet and are called auto-bots or transformers as humans like to call them. There are bad auto-bots on earth since their planet was destroyed, so the good ones arrive as well to protect human-kind, in good faith.

How does the kid get involved in this? His car is not just a love-bug, but also an auto-bot itself assigned to protect him and his family. His ancestor was one of the first to find an auto-bot on earth in the Arctic ice. So now it's more than just the car that impresses the hottie.. Hmm...

Despite the special effects, the fights between the good and bad auto-bots are sometimes too fast for live-action, and would have been better when animated. CGI can't always make everything real and visually appealing. The supporting cast carried the movie throughout. Rachael Taylor, the young Australian actress, impressed as a Department of Defense intern who finds the code and assesses the intent of the bots. The accent was definitely a plus.

Otherwise, I would have probably enjoyed the movie better if I was 15. I did enjoy the cartoons around that age and before. Despite the PG-13 rating, I felt too old to appreciate the movie too much, even thought I haven't hit 30 yet!

7/10. Maybe 8/10 on DVD, or if you take your kids/nephews/nieces.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Smashing Pumpkins' Tarantula Video: Re-edited by some Genius!

Smashing Pumpkins recently re-united, well... with only 2 of the old band-members and 3 new ones, and have just released their new album called Zeitgeist and it so far sounds awesome! Very typical 90's Alternative Rock brought back to life.

Their first music video from this "Tarantula" was re-edited with a different background by a genius on youtube, and now the video's theme is American foreground, European background. Kudos to Rev-24for the good work!



Watch it here.

In other news, I hope to be seeing the Pumpkins in concert on October 25th, but hope to see Velvet Revolver on Oct 9 first! WOOHOO!

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Best Fake Trailer Ever!



Watch this.

Is this real? I wish. My current favorite show Entourage (now that Sopranos has concluded) has their lead character Vincent Chase (played by Adrian Grenier) acting as drug lord Pablo Escobar in the biographical film Medellín. Basically, it's a film inside a TV-show, and unfortunately, it's not real.

Even casting Sofia Vergara in the fake movie was a great idea.

Maybe some day, Benicio del Torro will take up the role (even though he's already playing Che in Argentine).

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Movie Review: Fantastic 4 - Rise of the Silver Surfer

Movie Title: Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer
Starring: Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis and Julian McMahon.
Directed by: Tim Story
Genre: Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi/Comic-Book Adaptation
My Rating: 6.5/10

Going by the rating I gave this movie, I think it would be wise to keep the review short as well. The movie wasn't horrible; Chiklis and McMahon acted rather well actually. Gruffud's a better actor and should go back to serious roles now that Hollywood has acknowledged the brit's acting prowess. Jessica Alba looked her worst that I've ever seen. Maybe it was the hair color or the tan, I'm not sure. I'm actually even half-hearted about taking out her Sin City poster that I have on my wall.

It's not a bad movie to watch with kids, teenagers. Not bad to wait for it to come on HBO either. The special effects were okay; the surfer character wasn't well personified. The return of Dr Doom was probably the mere saving grace of the movie, along with the Thing's wisecracks. The good thing about this movie is: you won't go in with high hopes like you may have had for spidey-3 or Shrek 3.

Movie Review: Ocean's Thirteen

Movie Title: Ocean's Thirteen
Starring: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Scott Caan, Casey Affleck, Bernie Mac, Carl Reiner, Ellen Barkin, Eddie Izzard, Andy Garcia and Al Pacino.
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Genre: Comedy/Crime
My Rating: 8/10

So I'm finally back from a 4-week vacation and found some time to catch up with blogging movie reviews. O-13 was a good film, entertaining and consistently funny. Maybe not as many wisecracks as the first film, but as good as a "threequel" can get.

The movie summarizes as Danny Ocean's (Clooney) crew of crooks and grifters decide to take revenge on casino owner and millionaire Willie Banks (Pacino) for forcefully taking possession of a senior member of the crew's (Elliot Gould) share in a new casino at Las Vegas. Running short of funds, the crew takes a loan from their former (and possibly current) foe Terry Benedict (Garcia), who also conveniently has a personal grudge against Banks. In need of further technical assistance, they also recruit the brit computer genius Roman Nagel (Izzard) - to complete the thirteen.

George Clooney and Brad Pitt show their seniority and maturity, yet look much older than in the previous two movies. Matt Damon's character is given maturity too, with more responsibilities including playing decoy to distract Bank's right hand woman (Barkin). The others played their short but significant roles rather well. Bringing in French actor Vincent Cassel to continue playing Andy Garcia's acrobatic pawn was a waste, in my opinion. The biggest waste was probably of Mr. Pacino himself, playing a TV actor's role as a movie baddie.

Otherwise, setting that backdrop in Las Vegas again, and showing a different strategy in exploiting the new casino without exactly robbing it was interesting and well planned. This movie could make a dignified, non-disaster, end to the series.

8/10. Try not to expect too much. Especially with no Julia Roberts playing herself, nor Ms. Zeta Jones who distracted me too much from the story in O12.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Arrivederci, Goodbye Sopranos

I just wanted to take a small posting to big farewell to the greatest television show ever made - The Sopranos.

Last night was the final episode ever. With his right-hand and brother in law Bobby shot dead and consiglieri Sil in a death-bound coma, Tony was made organizationally weak with the next crosshair likely to hit his face. But no, it was a relatively peaceful finale. A sad one, nonetheless. Closures, galore. Characters that you haven't seen since the first season (e.g. Meadow's friend Hunter), AJ's finding a new meaning of life and a career (thank God!), and many implications that Tony was likely to be indicted on RICO charges soon - were all highlights of the episode.

The last scene showed the Soprano family (Tony, Carmela, AJ and Meadow) meeting up in a diner, and the screen went black for 80 seconds, followed by the end credits also without any music in the background. David Chase just decided to leave that all to imagination. Some guys in the diner could have been hitmen. Or maybe just patrons.

Farewell, my favorite show. You've entertained well.

Movie Review: Knocked Up

Movie Title:Knocked Up
Starring: Seth Rogen, Katherine Heigl, Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Jason Segel and Kristin Wiig.
Directed by: Judd Apatow
Genre: Comedy/Romance/Stoner
My Rating: 9/10!

I kid you not. Unless Live Free or Die Hard or something unexpected like Stardust takes the box office by storm, Knocked Up has got to be the best summer release this year. It is not just a comedy, but I would strongly refrain from calling it a chick flick too. It does have some humor comparable to 40 Year Old Virgin, yet manages to portray something totally different and new. It's about time we saw something new, anyway.

Seth Rogen plays Ben Stone, a stoner who lives with a quartet of stoners, all dreaming of launching a web site and making a lot of money one day. But until then, their only goal is smoking up and stoner activities. On the other hand, gorgeous Katherine Heigl plays Allison Scott, a behind the scenes assistant at the E! channel, who lives with her sister and brother-in-law in their out house. Allison gets promoted to an on-camera interviewer and in joy, decides to celebrate with a night out. At the club she meets Ben, they both get drunk, come home to Allison's place and ta-da! Some miscommunication makes Ben not use a condom... and the consequences of the same occur weeks later.

Upon confirming she's pregnant, they both decide to make the one-night-stand more than that and try knowing each other better. But her being a career woman, and him a stoner with weak perspective make matters more and more difficult. Allison's older sister Debbie, played by Leslie Mann who looks more glamorous than ever, has had a dysfunctional marriage with her husband Pete, played by an ever-reliable-and-funny Paul Rudd. This discourages Allison from getting deeply involved with men and yada, yada, yada, breaks up with Ben.

But yea, this is barely half the movie what I've written out for you above. And I may have made it seem like a chick flick which it is not. The laughter and wisecracks/dumbcracks in the movie are constant with a lot of "unused" humor. The gynecologist scenes, of course some stoner scenes, Ben and Pete bonding, and the two sisters getting angry and throwing out the F-word like a bad hangover. Katherine Heigl is absolutely hot when she cusses, reminds me of the scene in Grey's Anatomy when she had to admit she underwear-modeled her way through medical school. I haven't watched that show since the first season, and now I'm glad that's no longer the source to see some Katherine Heigl/Izzy.

Seth Rogen beyond excelled in his first major lead role. He totally owned the part. Katherine Heigl did a great job too, better than one would expect. Hope this gets her more good movie roles and break-away from that homewrecker of a TV show. The cameos were hilarious as well. SNL's Kristin Wiig contributed her creepy-low-but-constant voice for a couple of scene, SNL's Bill Heder too said a word or two as a cutting room guy. The gyno's (including Office's BJ Novak) were all funny in their own way. Above all, Ben's stoner friends - heading by Jason Segel from How I Met Your Mother boldly played their parts which would get them roles in the next National Lampoon stoner flick, or if they make a Harold & Kumar 3.

What I liked about this movie was: it did not encourage nor discourage pre-marital sex or abortion. It does not self-righteously make any religious, liberal or moral proclamations whatsoever. But it does show the heavy consequences. The climax in this movie, spoilers saved, is less realistic and less likely, but a cheerer ending to have.

A laugh-riot comedy, eye candy (Heigl), extreme stoner stuff and in the end a feel-gooder. Now that's a great dish to serve!

The movie does nudge over 2 hours, but lacks boring moments. Take lots of pop corn.
9/10 - never thought I'd give that to a summer movie.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Sarah Silverman bashes Paris Hilton!

Now, I don't blog gossip material, but this is real and hilarious! Last night at the MTV Movie Awards, ballsy hostess Sarah Silverman pep talked Paris Hilton in front of the entire audience and the whole world on TV, about going to jail etc..

Here's the clip:

http://www.mtv.com/overdrive/?name=special2&id=1561562&vid=151702

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

Movie Title: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
Starring: Johnny Depp, Kiera Knightley, Orlando Bloom, Geoffrey Rush, Chow Yun-Fat, Bill Nighy, Jonnathan Pryce, Jack Davenport, Naomi Harris and Stellan Skarsgård.
Directed by: Gore Verbinski
Genre: Action/Adventure/Fantasy
My rating: 8.5/10

What a great movie, a true relief after relatively disappointing part-3's of Spider-man and Shrek so far this summer. Let me warn you that the approach was, once again, different that than of it's predecessors. The comical content got reduced even more this time, even though everyone's favorite Jack Sparrow manages to offer a laugh at regular interviews.

Johnny Depp stole the show once again even though his wasn't completely the lead character in this movie. Character development was exceptional in this movie, and I'll elaborate on that bit below.

The story continues with Elizabeth (Knightley) and Will (Bloom) searching for Jack Sparrow (Depp) with the help of Singaporean pirate Sao Feng (Yun-Fat) and former enemy Captain Barbossa (Rush) and the sorceress Tia Dalma (Harris). Of course, every one of these have a hidden agenda as far as rescuing Jack goes. Elizabeth has the guilt of trapping him in the last movie, Will wants to bring his monstrous father back to life, Barbossa wants his ship (Black Pearl) and I'll leave the other 2's secrets off here before I could spoil it all. Davey Jones is still around, so are his tentacles, locked-up heart (both ways) and sea-monster crew. Just weaker and more controlled by the East India Company. Pirates all over the world are facing a possible extinction with the British Empire expanding above the speed limit and giving all support to the E.I.C.. This gives incentive to all the remaining pirates to join together and fight the imperials. Interesting costumes and well researched characters of pirates from India, Africa, Portugal, China etc. add delight to the movie.

The acting and special effects were spectacular this time again. Depp may not get another Oscar nomination for portraying the lone drunken pirate, but definitely gets an applause for the same. Orlando Bloom has matured significantly and his character of Will Turner is much darker and deeper. Kiera Knightley looks beautiful just like her performance as Elizabeth Swan. Geoffrey Rush and Bill Nighy showed their experience and maturity in their roles, and the pirate crew is lovable, as usual. Chow Yun-Fat made his presence felt, and like I mentioned in an earlier review, he does have potential to play a great baddie! Naomi Harris adds strength to her character of Tia Dalma, and does a decent job for a lesser known actress. Past romances are always a good way to keep a sequel going ;-)

I was actually glad that the romantic angle wasn't dragged this time. More action, less talk and wonders galore highlighted this feature. Only downsides may be that it spans over two hours, mercilessly sheds a lot of blood, It was a great way to (if they are) end the trilogy. Rumors say there may be more Pirate movies. I don't see Orlando Bloom and Kiera Knightley returning if there are any.

I give this movie an 8.5/10. It isn't as grand as Curse of the Black Pearl but at least it has a definite ending for a movie. The start may make some weak hearts sob. Glad I had a pretzel to munch half-way through the movie.

Do stay past the end credits. And enjoy!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Song/Video Review: "She Builds Quick Machines" by Velvet Revolver

I know I've blogged about this song before, when it was leaked on the net etc.. but it didn't take too long for it to grow on me. Great song, good music/lyrics and entertaining video as well.

While the lyrics focus on a girl with a hazardous lifestyle trying to make ends meet in questionable ways, the video focuses on the band's album concept: Libertad. It's another hot day in the Mexican dessert and the band members are dressed and equipped as modern day cowboys trying to rescue a winged angel kidnapped by some rural tyrants. The girl's character is Libertad, implying the "Angel of Freedom," played by a young Mexican actress from the capital city. The setting is similar to that of any Spaghetti Western flick, with Scott Weiland not so surprisingly resembling Clint Eastwood, and bassist Duff McKagan starting to resemble David Bowie in these later years. My favorite guitarist Slash, I believe, refused to play cowboy and insisted to be shown playing his guitar during the solo sequence, even though none of the other musicians had their instruments.

However, I don't fancy the new album cover (above) too much. It has the same color theme as their first CD Contraband, and their earlier suggestion for Libertad was much better.

Song: 8/10
Video: 7.5/10
CD Cover: 6/10

Can't wait till the album comes out! Enjoy the music video below:

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

'Anchorman' meets '300'

Seriously, who would have thought this would turn out so funny?



http://www.lostremote.com/2007/05/28/anchorman-meets-300/

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

All ye South Park Fans


My movie review for "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" is a bit overdue, and I hope to post it soon.

In the mean time, my favorite web site, IMDb has posted a bunch of FAQ's about the cult favorite animation show South Park. Find out how many times Kenny dies, and how he comes back to life each time. Check it out:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0121955/faq

Music Video/Song Review: White Stripes' Icky Thump

Icky Thump?? Weird name for a song, but a good composition overall. The White Stripes are back, with a new album, tour and a video already. Jack keeps playing guitar and pulls a bass occasionally with an octave divider. Meg seems to contribute to the music more with her percussions too.

They will actually visiting a nearby town at the end of July, when I'll be back from vacation and a paycheck earned. Will post a concert review if I do go see them play.

This song is about immigration, a mockery perhaps. The video may take a minute to load. Not bad overall, I'm a guitar aficionado and always appreciate a song with good leads, solos and bridges.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OjTspCqvk8

The White Stripes on Myspace

Monday, May 21, 2007

Movie Review: Shrek The Third

Movie Title: Shrek the Third
Starring: Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, Justin Timberlake and Rupert Everett (all in voices)
Directed by: Chris Miller & Raman Hui
Genre: Animation/Adventure/Comedy/Family
My Rating: 7.8/10

As a colleague of mine rightfully stated today, "the summer of over hyped movies continues!" No, Shrek 3 wasn't as disappointing as Spider-man 3, wasn't bad at all, and I assure you it won't get the bashing I gave spidey!

What is much overdue from the audience like us is to have way less expectations from a part 3 movie.

Shrek the Third begins with the ailing King Harold, who's now a frog as continuing from the last movie, unable to run the kingdom and Shrek has been assigned the burden of knighting new lordships and breaking bottles on new ships. Our favorite ogre doesn't feel up to the job and decides to find the next of kin to take over the throne. The only other eligible contender for the throne besides Shrek happens to be Fiona's cousin Arthur, or Artie, an object of bullies at the Worcestershire high school.

Problems arise when Shrek is away trying to fetch this kid. The ever closeted-metro "former" Prince Charming invades the kingdom of Far-Far-Away with a crew of has-been Disney® cartoon villains, along with the elk trees from Lord of the Rings, and claims his way to the throne! You can complete the rest of the story, or just watch the movie. Spoilers saved.

The storyline isn't too bad. The flow of the movie isn't, either. Even the new characters such as Arthur (voiced by Timberlake), eccentric Merlin the magician, Snow White (SNL's Amy Poehler, yah!), Rapunzel (SNL's Maya Rudolph) and Cinderella managed to amuse in their given screen time. It may have just been the lack of a real overbearing villain; Charming is nothing without his deceased Fairy Godmother. The Pinocchio and Gingerbread Man jokes were funny, although a tad-bit recycled.

My favorite part was when Snow White and the rest of Fiona's fairy-tale girlfriends retaliate and re-enter the castle gates with a bird & squirrel army induced by chirpy human singing (remember part 1 when Fiona decided to fry some eggs for her new friends?). Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song started playing when they attacked, followed by Fergie's cover of Heart's Barracuda. It's in my philosophy that good rock n' roll music in the soundtrack can always save a movie. We're not talking of Last Action Hero here.

Overall I give this summer family animation a 7.8/10. I could have probably enjoyed it better if there weren't so many noisy kids all over the theater hall enjoying their holidays.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Music Preview: Chris Cornell


Former Audioslave and Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell finally releases his second solo album "Carry On" on June 5th. He recently performed at the home of grunge in Seatle, WA to promote his new album and tour, with covers of Soundgarden, Audioslave as well as Temple of the Dog!

MSN has been kind enough to air the recorded performance, and you can watch it here:

Chris Cornell live in Seattle


The only weird part was him covering Michael Jackson's Billie Jean in a somber, blues-ish fashion. The new songs seem decent and well composed.

Impressive, I must say. The band is good too. A bunch of young kids with probably dreams of their own. Never doubted Chris Cornell as a great performer, and look forward to seeing him in concert, hopefully in Memphis.

However, it would be cool to see Cornell play guitar while singing too. Here's an clip from a year ago when he was still in Audioslave and performed "Black Hole Sun" by himself:


Rock on, Chris Cornell!

Chris Cornell MySpace

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Movie Review: Spider-Man 3


Movie Title: Spider-Man 3
Starring: Toby Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Hayden Church, Topher Grace, Bryce Dallas Howard.
Directed by: Sam Raimi
Genre: Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi/Thriller/Superhero
My Rating: 7.5/10

Where do I begin? I didn't bother with the sneak preview, didn't watch on the opening weekend, and didn't wait to watch it on IMAX either. Moreover, I loved Spider-Man 2; it was a great improvement over it's prequel. I just can't say the same about Spider-Man 3. The "spidey" franchise is one where the hype finally got to it, just like it did to George Lucas which resulted in debacles such as Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace and Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones. Forgive me for comparing these franchises, but just like in the movies, too much fame can sometimes hurt, and hurt really bad.

I wouldn't want to say that 3 is a disappointment, but it definitely isn't an improvement over 2, and barely more entertaining than 1! Without filtering the less-than-satisfactory feedback that I received from other sources about this movie, I'll start by saying it was a good movie. Just a bit dull in comparison, that's all.

The story starts where the last movie ended: Peter Parker (Maguire) and Mary-Jane (Dunst) are a happily dating couple, with the former making straight-A's in college, and the latter making it to Broadway musicals. Peter even thinks he's ready to ask MJ to marry him, but then the following happens:


  • Villain #1

  • Villain #2
    ..... oh wait..and,

  • Villain #3

Actually one of them is just half a villain, and another doesn't become a villain until much later. However, none of these villains are what we'd call "bad asses." They're not cool. They're not cold enough. Even if they tried. None of them could match Alfred Molina who played Doc Ock in 2.

The New Goblin is nothing new. Maybe just a bit more real without that lame mask worn in 1. Harry (Franco) is still pissed and wants to avenge his pissed off but deceased father's death by killing spidey. We already knew this was coming, if you've seen the ending of 2.

Sandman could have been a much more effective baddie had they scripted the character's demeanor a bit more emphatically. Flint Marko (Church) is an escaped convict who used to be a small-time crook trying to gather funds for his terminal daughter's medical treatment. It also turns out that Marko was the real killer of Peter's Uncle Ben, and not that skunk-head who stole from the wrestling organizers in 1. How convenient, couldn't the screenwriters let go of the past already?

Venom looks more like a character who escaped out of a comic-book and is puzzled about what real people look like. Eddie Brock (Grace) is Peter's rival freelance photographer at the Daily Bugle and tries to steal any opportunity from Peter that he can. This villain does look the creepiest. But in real, I couldn't see Topher (Eric from That 70's Show) hurt a chicken.

Brock happens to be dating Gwen Stacy, played by a graceful and miscasted Bryce Dallas Howard (Lady in the Water, The Village). Gwen is also Peter's lab Partner, a prospective model, and the daughter of the Police Captain who informs Peter and Aunt May about uncle Ben's real killer. Golly, am I really confused or did they just make New York City seem to be so small, where everyone knows (or is connected to) everyone?

Just like the franchise, fame gets Peter way over his head, he loses MJ, and decides to turn to the dark side with the black alien substance in his dark suit. This is when the producers decide to cater to the young audience - by making the lead character EMO! Click on that word if you really don't know what that is. And of course, he comes around. Everyone does. Well, not everyone, but definitely the hero does!

There are a few musical moments that try to light up the flow, a bit jazzy and Broadway-like, and I'd dare compare that to Bollywood.

Overall, Spider-Man 3 is a great summer entertainer. Being more violent than it's predecessors, it earned the PG-13 rating. The special effects are amazing for lack of better words. But that's the part that you expect and it lived up to. I still enjoyed this movie despite my possible harsh criticism in the paragraphs above. I do look forward to a possible part 4 or even beyond. It left a good ending to continue with.

7.5/10. Take a lot of popcorn, and a large soda. 2 hours and 20 minutes may just fly.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Timbaland does Bollywood-style

Anyone who knows me personally will agree that I'm not the greatest fan of hip-hop (don't hate it though), nor am I a great fan of modern Bollywood music. Music producer Timbaland recorded a song "Bombay" in his latest album Shock Value and I find the integration of Bollywood/Hip-hop to be an interesting one.

I admit to liking the song. Hindi vocals are by Amar - same lady who sang for Tavlin Singh's Jaan, which was in the soundtrack for Replacement Killers.

Check it out: (Audio only)


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cO03I-dNdY

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Moview Review: Fracture


Movie Title: Fracture
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Ryan Gosling, Rosamund Pike, Billy Burke, David Straithairn, Embeth Davidtz
Directed by: Gregory Hoblit
Genre: Thriller/Drama/Mystery
My Rating: 8/10

Fracture is a masterpiece movie with masterpiece actors and production values. The story and plot-line could have easily been stolen into an episode of TV's Law & Order and boosted up its ratings enough to last the show another season. However, nobody could enact such a story better than Hopkins and Gosling.

Hopkins plays Theodore Crawford, a millionaire owner of an aerodynamics firm, with expertise in fracture mechanism and thermodynamics. Ok, just understand he's a genius in a way. He's old, 60+, busy with work, and a much younger wife Jennifer(a gracious Davidtz) = she has an affair! But that's the only cliché. Hollywood seems to never tire itself of jealous older sugar daddies these days. Ted shoots Jennifer in the same jealous rage, his arresting police officer turns out to be the man she was having an affair with, and Ted knows it all along. Moreover, it turns out the gun Ted was holding during the arrest wasn't the same gun Jennifer was shot with, and with no matching gun found in the house.... he's a free man.

Gosling is a young prosecutor, William Beachum, about to embark on a new career in private practice and finally making the 3 figure salary not many people would have made serving the people. His new boss was going to be Nikki Gardner, played by the uber-gorgeous bondgirl Rosamund Pike, who he manages to have a go with just before working under her. Smart, at least they wouldn't have sexual tension.

BUT - his current boss, played by the usually underrated David Straithairn, wants him to take on a last case in his final two weeks at the D.A.'s office, and it turns out to be prosecuting Ted Crawford. After Crawford walks free due to the technicality, Beachum decides to go after the Crawford case to soften his ego, even if it meant losing his present job as well as his future job. Thus begins the cat-and-mouse game with no chase needed.

Hopkins was cold, similar to his Hannibal Lector roles, but just not so blood hungry. The emotionless wisecracks and insensitive sarcasms added some humor to the movie, which somewhat helped the flow. Gosling was excellent. He's one of those young actors you can easily rely on for a great performance. The supporting cast did a decent job as well.

The acting and script execution throughout the movie was superb. However, my only problem was people's accents. Ryan Gosling spoke with a drawl of a southern accent. Pike spoke with an American accent, something I've never heard that brit lady speak in before and it was kind of weird. Hopkins actually kept his Welsh accent, which wasn't bad just a bit odd, different say. In the second half I believe it starts sounding more ... Irish? Hmm...

8/10 - watch it in the theater, or rent it... you'll enjoy it either way.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Music Preview: Velvet Revolver

Velvet Revolver happens to be one of my personal favorite post-grunge bands of this decade, with some of the greatest rock musicians of the late 80's and 90's as it's members.

After their platinum debut album Contrabrand, VR is releasing their second album Libertad on July 3 this year. I couldn't be more excited and hopefully it will be at least as good as the first CD, even if it's different.

They have just concluded a tour of South America, and a couple of their new songs were recorded in concert and leaked on the Internet. The link is below:



These new songs rock! But, hopefully the recorded versions will be better. The concert I attended of VR in 2004 is one of the best performances I've ever seen, besides U2 and hopefully they'll tour in the mid-south later this year! They did play some covers of their former bands Guns N' Roses and Stone Temple Pilots last time around, but reports say they may not repeat that this time around. Too bad...




More about Velvet Revolver

411 Service from GOOGLE, Free!

While trying to get out of my short-term writer's block, I found another interesting service by Google.

From any phone in the US, you can dial 411 to get information about places to eat, movies to watch etc. in a specified area. However, most phone companies charge $ 1.49 or more every time you'd dial 411.

Google's experimental Voice Local Search provides the same service, for free. Instead of a three-digit code, you can dial 1-800-GOOG-411 (1-800-466-4411) toll-free and talk with the automated system.

I just called that number, said what city/state I was in, and asked for a Starbucks. After saying the address, they connected me to that Starbucks store too.

Moreover, if you're calling from a cellphone you can also have them text/SMS you the details of the business establishment, by just saying "text message" or pressing 9.

Links:

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Will Ferrell invades the Internet

Episode: Landlord


http://sjl.funnyordie.com/v1/view_video.php?viewkey=3efbc24c7d2583be6925





I would embed the video if only I figured out a way to not make it start automatically.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Concert Review: JET


Artist: JET
Location: New Daisy, Memphis TN
Genre: Rock
How was the show? Awesome!

I had nothing to expect. I have heard Jet's songs before, liked them, but never considered them to be one of my favorite bands. Being deprived of a good concert for a while, I decided to give this one a shot. And it was worth every penny, every decibel, and every brain-cell lost.

This Australian band from Melbourne is a classy hybrid of Beatles and AC/DC with all their originality. And yet, they're one of the few modern rock bands that still actually rock. They're not any of the "emo" boy bands or speed-metal gothic wannabes. They're a real rock band, with a real bunch of bad-asses, and well utilized talent. Lead vocalist/guitarist Nic Cester can scream all he wants, whenever he wants and still not make it one bit ugly.

The band started with "Last Chance" and rocked everyone's face off since minute one.
They sang most of their songs from both albums, including "Are you gonna be my girl," "Cold Hard Bitch," "Look what you've done," "Rollover DJ," "Put your money where your mouth is," "Bring it on back" etc.. The encore started with Nic Cester singing "Shine On" with the guitar all by himself. That's one of the best one-man performances I have seen in a while.


The most daring, or unusual, deed at the concert was where Nic Cester stood on top of the bass-drum a couple of times and owned the stage completely.

The lighting, the sound, and the performance as a whole was just superb! This was a concert I surely won't forget for quite a while. Do check them out if they're in your area soon.

Rock on, JET!

Links:

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Movie Review: Curse of the Golden Flower


Movie Title: Curse of the Golden Flower
Starring: Chow-Yun Fat, Gong Li
Directed by: Zhang Zimou
Country of Origin: China/Hong Kong
My Rating: 7/10

Curse of the Golden Flower is set in 928 A.D. China, during the regime of the Tang Dynasty. Emperor Ping (played brilliantly by Chow-Yun Fat) and Empress Phoenix (played by the beautiful Gong Li) are entwined in a power struggle, and to make matters worse, the sons are involved too. The plot-line is the only thing that didn't make complete sense to me here. The Emperor keeps poisoning his consort wife so that she's on her way to a slow death, preluded by a mental breakdown. The crown-prince does not want to be a crown prince any more, the valiant second son is loyal to his mother, and the youngest son has the typical and dangerous last-born syndrome.

However, this movie is worth a watch for it's art and glamor alone. A lot of resources have been put into making everything in this movie beautiful. Golden armor, exotic clothes for the women, and colors all over the palace that prove to be a sight for sore eyes. Moreover, Chow-Yun Fat excelled in his portrayal of the highly intelligent, yet compassionately numb Emperor. It is indeed a good change from seeing him all those goody-goody roles he's played all these years. He also plays his role, for a change. Not often in movies do 50+ actors play 50+ roles these days. Gong-Li was well dolled up, played her 40+ age and her acting wasn't bad. I just didn't become an instant fan of hers after watching the dismal Miami Vice last year.

Please note: This is not a kung-fu movie.



However, it is not a chick-flick either. I just see women enjoying this movie for it's slow and steady pace more than men. It is a beautifully done movie, too bad the plot didn't move me too much.

7/10 - Not a bad rental. Especially not a bad Netflix rental :)